Friday, 14 March 2014

My Back End. A Resume of the End of the River Fishing Season

My back-end.

Wednesday the mist quite literally descended on another coarse season, at least for this angler, and, as the greens begin to emerge through the browns, what is certain is that 30 years ago, when he last regularly set foot on riverbanks, he would rarely have found himself there in winter and even less likely in floods, preferring the alternative challenge of a canal to the liquid soil that is the inundated natural watercourse

That anyone ever endeavoured to discover what is now known about the good possibility of catching fish under such circumstances is beyond comprehension, but do it they did, probably due to the need to eat in prehistory, and now we are able to take advantage of that knowledge

For only two weeks of this winter has the River Leam been at its 'normal' winter level and yet the catches this angler has enjoyed have been of great interest, even if only to himself. At times, were it not for proof elsewhere, one might have wondered whether 'normal' level meant flush with the tops of the banks.

So the past couple of weeks, with the river quickly reaching a comfortably fishable state and the fish, according to the textbooks, undoubtedly ravenously feeding, a number of visits needed to be made before the opportunity slipped away and, on next inspection, the river banks would be chest-high in vegetation and the channel awash with rushes.

At this point we need to remember that my now favourite small river is no Trent of the '80's either in size, species variety, fish population or any other respect apart from holding water for that matter. It's fish are also quite difficult to catch.

Every available opportunity to get on the Leam's banks has been taken over the past two weeks and some of the best roach and chub fishing of the season within the above constraints has been there to enjoy.

 A last week catch. Chub to 3-1-11, Roach to 0-11-10.
One surprising aspect of the winding course is its depth in certain pegs. In some pegs the river is all-but as deep as it is wide and, bearing in mind that a 6 foot deep peg this week would have been 11-12 feet deep a month ago, Parps and I were staggered as we fished into dark to find the margins alive with fry in our headlamps. How could they have survived a period of five months of extreme raised levels one might ask, but then we do have to recall that these species have been around far longer than we have and they might just have evolved some coping mechanisms by now. Even armed with that knowledge it still seems incredible however.

So we've tried a few new things over the past few days...Parps tried fluorescent pinkies in white bread groundbait but only succeeded in catching minnows, but, as a new species to him, he was mildly amused by that. At the same time it has been impossible to catch roach on a float with bread flake whereas they could be caught with a static bait so long as one was prepared to wait for the hittable bites among the taps of fish pulling crumbs off the hook bait. That has been entertaining too but the main lesson to be drummed home by a concerted period of attention to the river has been that short sharp attacks on the unsuspecting inhabitants are by far the best approach. After two or three hours things start to tail-off and cannot be resurrected in its limited confines; this, combined with the obvious peak times at dawn and dusk, provides some obvious answers.

The short stretch that we now have exclusive rights to has proven unfishable quite regularly but the past couple of weeks have produced a couple of chub at just under and just over 2lbs and it currently further adds weight (sorry) to the conclusion that a two pound chub is very much the standard and one over three pounds seem to me to be a good'un. I wonder if anyone else has any contemporary experiences to compare with that on this lightly-fished watercourse?

2 pounders above and a three pounder below
After two seasons, or winters in reality, on the river much has been learnt and a simple effective approach while travelling light has been settled-upon...and then just yesterday a guy comes down to try drop-shotting, now there's an idea!

So, what next then? Well, literally next, we are back to canals and the odd appropriately naturalised still-water including the syndicate water, which to date has been baffling largely due to heavy colour which should be dropping out now, but, as far as river fishing goes, there is a distinct temptation to extend the stretches of the Leam we can access beyond that currently available to us come next season, so that needs further investigation.

For this angler though the highlight of the river season was the very last thing to happen.

At 7.15pm fishing in heavy mist that had descended unnoticed in the infrared glow of my head-torch, and very little other than odd micro-dace-like taps on the tip to amuse me and apart from trying to identify night flying birds by call...and failing, there was a splash and slopping sounds just down to my right, As the positioning was adjusted to gain a view a quite huge curving dark shape broke the reflection of the sky on the silvering surface. As it cruised past just four metres or so in front of my eyes the finest sight since the (too oft mentioned) two pound canal roach formed in words in my mind - a quite massive dog otter had entered the water from its daytime lie right next to me and headed south down the river. This was one camera opportunity I could not miss, but miss it I did; as I reached for it this superior predator, and survivor of 5000 years of human persecution, dived in an instant panic of self-preservation to resurface downstream past a concealing bush at which distance it was too dark to get a focus and the chance was lost

The scene through which it swam
How long before the next bite? Fifteen minutes.

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